Thank you, Madam President. I congratulate the United States on its successful leadership of the Council this month. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Ján Kubiš, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, for his briefing and for his outstanding leadership of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. His tireless work over the past several months has been essential as Afghanistan grapples with a challenging election period. As Mr. Kubiš’ tenure is coming to an and end, I wish him every success in his future endeavours. I also thank the Secretary-General and his team for their support of my country throughout the election process, and also for the Secretary-General’s recent report on the Situation in Afghanistan.
On 5 April and 14 June, millions of Afghans cast their votes to elect the future leader of the country, risking their lives and defying Afghanistan’s enemies to exercise their democratic rights. In doing so, they demonstrated remarkable bravery in the face of terrorism, and a stalwart commitment to a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan.
The elections marked the end of Afghanistan’s Transition and the beginning of the Transformation Decade, a moment of tremendous importance as the country emerges from over 30 years of war. For the Afghan people, elections represented an historic opportunity to vote for hope, democracy and lasting peace.
However, despite the impressive turn out and enthusiasm of millions of Afghans, the elections turned into a protracted, complex, even at times messy process, with many unforeseeable challenges. Disputes related to allegations of fraud in the second round and subsequent political turmoil necessitated substantial efforts to avoid crisis. To this end, with the support of the international community, both presidential candidates signed a joint declaration on 8 August, in line with the political and technical frameworks agreed on 12 July. The declaration detailed their unified vision for a full audit based on agreed criteria prepared by the United Nations, and the formation of a national unity government consistent with the Afghan constitution.
Following the agreement, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), in close collaboration with the United Nations and the international community, carried out an audit in accordance with Afghan laws and international standards. In an exercise unprecedented in scale and complexity, the IEC evaluated every single vote from the runoff, from 22,828 ballot boxes and all 34 provinces. The audit was conducted under extensive national and international observation and supervision to protect the credibility and fairness of the election results. It has been an immense undertaking involving hundreds of United Nations staff, diplomatic personnel, international and domestic observers, agents from each campaign, and Afghan electoral staff. On behalf of the government and people of Afghanistan, I would like to express my appreciation to all domestic and international observers and staff who worked day and night to complete the audit.
We are grateful to the international community, particularly the United States and the United Nations, for supporting the audit process and for their role in facilitating negotiations and cooperation between the two campaign teams; the Afghan people expect these efforts to bring a successful and prompt end to this process.
The audit has now been completed, and we await the announcement of the final results. The Afghan people are eager to move past this difficult chapter and see a new government start its work, in the spirit of national unity, to preserve the gains of the last decade and bring peace and prosperity to all. As President Karzai reiterated yesterday, the Afghan people urgently need to see the process come to a close and a new President and government inaugurated. President Karzai chaired a meeting this morning with Jihadi leaders and heads of three branches of the state to discuss the election issue and the negotiations between the two candidates. Participants to the meeting expressed concern over a prolonged election process and said people have grown restless and are worried. The meeting decided that the elders meet with the two candidates tomorrow morning (Friday), to help to reach a quick agreement.
The last six months have been extremely challenging for the people of Afghanistan. The electoral impasse has seriously impacted the economy of the country, the security of the country, and the mindset of its people. To ensure future stability, the following issues require the immediate focus of Afghanistan and its international partners:
First, an increasingly dire economic situation, exacerbated by the political uncertainty surrounding the elections dispute. The past several months have seen a steep drop in economic growth, domestic revenue collection, and national income, amounting to billions of dollars in losses and threatening the long-term stability of the country. The government is doing its utmost to keep the financial stability of the country intact, but it will be difficult to resolve this impending crisis without international support.
Second, a worsening security situation. The Taliban and other terrorist and violent extremist groups took advantage of the electoral impasse to destabilize the country with violence. Their use of suicide attacks, improvised explosive devises (IEDs) and rocket mortars in populated areas have caused a surge in casualties of civilians and security personnel, making this the deadliest period for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and the Afghan people since 2001. Cross-border shelling has further contributed to a dismal security situation and associated loss of life. While the Afghan National Security Forces have countered the majority of insurgents, and in doing so demonstrated ability, professionalism and courage, the shadow of violence continues to loom large in Afghanistan.
Third, a dangerous atmosphere of division and fragmentation. The political impasse jeopardized the resounding hope and enthusiasm so prevalent on Election Day and with it the Afghan people’s optimism for the country’s future. We have worked tirelessly over the last decade to build national consensus and unity, but over the past several months fears of a return to the dark days of the past have reemerged. The Afghan nation would like to see humility, reason and restraint triumph over mistrust and division; only this will allow the country to build a peaceful and democratic future.
While immediate dangers require urgent focus, the successful conclusion of the election process and the formation of a new government will allow for further progress on Afghanistan’s long-term priorities and commitments. The country continues to look forward to advancing towards its goals so that it can realize sustainable peace, stability and prosperity at last.
The imminent democratic transition offers an opportunity to reinvigorate efforts towards wider reform, inclusivity and participation of all segments of Afghan society in the country’s future. A new beginning will also allow for further progress on the peace and reconciliation agenda so that the armed opposition lay down their arms and contribute to a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan.
At the same time, regional cooperation will remain essential not only to peace and reconciliation but also to stability and progress in the wider neighborhood. Afghanistan is dedicated to strengthening bilateral and multilateral engagements to enhance development and trade and to counter terrorism, extremism and sources of instability in the region.The upcoming Istanbul Process conference in Tianjin, China is an important step in this regard, and we appreciate China’s leadership in moving this initiative forward.
Afghanistan is committed to long-term partnerships with the international community, which will be crucial to the success of the Transformation Decade and beyond.We welcome the declaration of NATO in Wales earlier this month to stand ready to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Security Forces after 2014 and its enduring commitment to the country throughout the Transformation Decade. Ongoing support from our international partners is of vital importance as international forces draw down and the ANSF take full responsibility for security throughout the country. We also look forward to enhanced cooperation between Afghanistan and the donor community. The ministerial development conference to be held in London on 25 November will allow us to reaffirm and renew existing commitments as part of the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework and fortify Afghanistan’s long-term partnership with the international community.
Nations are building their own futures, but in today’s world the international community has an important role to play in helping war-affected countries emerge from conflict. This is why we are again here today in this council to debate the situation in Afghanistan. After 13 years of tremendous work and substantial gains, the Afghan people yearn to live in peace and security. As we move forward, stability is paramount not only to my country and my people but also to the wider neighbourhood, and countries in the region have a major stake in peace and security in Afghanistan. It is crucial that the country does not again become a backdrop for political rivalries and that the region and the wider international community stand by us to support the successful end of the election process.